Three new PNG projects worth a combined US$200 million (around K722 million) have been approved by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors. The projects aim to improve roads and transport, child nutrition and protection, and work conditions and mobility. The Australian Government has also pledged additional support for the schemes.

Stefano Mocci, Country Manager at the World Bank for Papua New Guinea, said, “Collectively, these new projects will help address three of PNG’s most significant challenges: improving transport links between key regional hubs to boost access to jobs and markets; supporting children’s development during their vital first 1000 days of life so they can reach their full potential; and helping Papua New Guineans benefit from job opportunities in Australia and New Zealand.

“We also look forward to working alongside the Government of Australia that has contributed to these projects and is a key partner,” he added.

First is the US$93 million ‘Resilient Transport Project’ that will improve the country’s road network. The project also benefits from an additional grant of US$15 million from the Government of Australia.

The money will improve the national road network and support the Department of Works and Highways. It will fund the rehabilitation and repair of 63kms of the Hiritanu and Ramu highways and pay for ongoing maintenance of around 200kms of roads.

The ‘Child Nutrition and Social Protection Project’ will receive US$80 million and aims to improve the quality of food children receive. It will support the country’s ‘Fast Track Initiative to Reduce Stunting’ by delivering nutrition services and enhancing community knowledge relating to nutrition.

The project also benefits from US$10 million funding from Australia and aims to provide a social safety net for pregnant mothers and those with young children. It will also help at the community level with support for village health volunteers and education on subjects such as hygiene, breastfeeding, and diet.

The final project tackles labour issues. ‘Enhancing Labor Mobility from Papua New Guinea’ helps Papua New Guinean workers benefit from job opportunities in Australia and New Zealand. While abroad, they can earn money and learn valuable skills, which they can then bring back to their local communities.

Other Pacific Island nations have successfully undertaken similar schemes, and this project will help PNG workers prepare for and access foreign opportunities. It will also assist with integration when they return to PNG.

“With nearly half of children under age five being stunted, malnutrition affects the lives of far too many Papua New Guinean families and has an enormous impact on PNG’s economic potential,” Stefano Mocci said.

“Alongside new work to upgrade and maintain critical roads like the Ramu range section along the Ramu Highway that play a vital role for economic activity and supporting hard-working Papua New Guineans in accessing regional employment, we are proud to be supporting the PNG Government to meet these important needs.”

Image caption: Papua New Guinea Resilient Transport Project, source: The World Bank